I do my best not to form an opinion about a film before experiencing it in all its might. I do not regard people’s opinion on a production before I am able to form my own. That being said, you might recall that I have admitted that I am inclined to eulogize a film if directed by Danny Boyle or Christopher Nolan, when written by Aaron Sorkin, or, in the case of The Shape of Water, scored by Alexandre Desplat. But was the score the only factor that impressed?
Set in an era ruled by conservatism and fear, The Shape of Water plays against the backdrop of an America, dead-set to win the space race armed with their perception of science. After the discovery of an exotic creature in the South American jungle, authorities decided to study the amphibious being the best way they knew how – by being inhumane. By chaining him up and hiding it away for experimental research to be done.
Little did they expect a cleaner, Elisa (Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmin) to show the compassion and humanity that they lacked. Elisa, being mute, falls blatantly in love with the only man that hasn’t identified her with her disability. Armed with her best friend, Zelda (Octavia Spencer – The Help, Hidden Figures), they set out to free him from the torturous environment he held in.
The Shape of Water is similar to a Dali piece. It confuses and frightens. It leaves no instance for the audience to be impressed by mediocrity. Hawkins has impressed with roles in recent productions like Maudie and manages to completely disappear in the character that she is portraying while, as always, Spencer portrays the sassy moral backbone of society which leads one to think that she is being typecasted as such. With seductive cinematography that introduces a scene and sub-text before it comes alive on the silver screen, it is difficult to simply watch the film and not feel a part of it. Desplat once again managed to astonish with his ability to successfully set the emotion of a scene with a mere stroke of a string. His pieces engulfed the audience to submit to the silent emotion on the screen while being taken on a scenic journey through the turmoil of what is hopefully about to be era-specific prejudice.
Most might attempt to simplify The Shape of Water but it subtly addresses problems that the world are still faced with today. Problems that are on the declined and frowned upon, but that right there is the actual problem. Instead of being frowned upon, it is our responsibility to face the fact that discrimination against love, race and social classes are still a reality. The evident fear of the unknown is still present. The search for knowledge and understanding is still with us, but that shouldn’t be used as an end to justify the means. Without it being part of the main theme of the production, writer-director, Guillermo del Torro addressed these injustices by simply reminding the audience of its presence.
The Shape of Water is more than an abstract cinematic masterpiece, it is an important discussion starter if watched with an open mind. If not, well you’ll be one of those that don’t recommend it.
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